Feng optimistic new coach help her medal in Rio
With new coach Chen at the helm, Feng upbeat about medal chances at Rio Olympics
The new coaching line-up has given Singapore's No. 1 female paddler Feng Tianwei renewed hope that she can break new ground at Rio 2016 and become the first Singaporean athlete to medal at three Olympics.
Earlier this week, the Singapore Table Tennis Association appointed former men's world No. 5 Chen Zhibin as the new national women's team coach and he has already made a good first impression.
"The new coach brings a new philosophy and new concepts and that helps with my confidence," said Feng, who has struggled with knee and wrist injuries recently as she fell to No. 8 in the world rankings.
The 29-year-old, who won the Asian Cup last year, was speaking to the media after she was named Keppel-STTA Sportswoman of the Year at the annual table tennis awards at the Qian Xi (Farrer Park) Restaurant in the Civil Service Club last night.
Feng, who won a women's team silver at Beijing 2008 and bronzes in the women's singles and team event at London 2012, added: "I'm confident I can bounce back and help Team Singapore win another Olympic medal.
"The Olympics are a very brutal competition where the younger athletes make life difficult for the veterans. I know because I was once the young paddler with nothing to lose eight years ago.
"It is a new era now with the bigger table tennis ball and you can see teams like Germany, Hong Kong and Holland rising.
"In such sink-or-swim scenarios, some thrive while some get left behind. I want to be one of those to ride on this new wave and achieve new breakthroughs."
Chen, a 54-year-old German-Chinese who has lived 25 years in Koblenz, agreed that his new charges are having issues with the bigger ball as they slip in the world rankings, but added that haste could make waste in their Olympic medal bid.
"It could be because our players still cannot get hold of its tempo as it is more unstable," said Chen, whose first assignment is next week's World Team Table Tennis Championships at Kuala Lumpur, where the women's team aim to at least retain their bronze medal from Tokyo two years ago.
"I can understand if our players want too badly to get used to the different conditions as soon as possible, but they cannot be too anxious.
"Our current women's team may not be as strong as the 2008 and 2012 teams that medalled at the Olympics, but they were third at the last World Championships so we have the ability to do well again.
"(World No. 34) Yu Mengyu was once in the top 10 so she is an asset, and Feng Tianwei, on her day, is also capable of winning two points for us against strong teams like Japan.
"In fact, it could be easier to medal at the Olympics for the singles events because each country is limited to two entries in the singles event, compared to the World Championships where China can field seven players.
"As for the team event, we are seventh in the world now.
"I doubt we will fall out of the top eight, so we have to fight hard to make it into the top four again for a more favourable draw."
STTA president Ellen Lee urged her players to repay the faith that has seen the association accede to their request for a new coach.
She said: "The new coaches and players must be able to work together and bond in the shortest time possible.
"Tianwei has experience and knows what the Olympics are about. I hope we can win at least one medal and that's no mean feat because it would be against the best in the world.
"The players must be in the right form and frame of mind. We have faith in them and they must also prove that they deserve the faith and investments pumped in to groom them."
Meanwhile, guest-of-honour Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister for Social and Family Development and Singapore National Olympic Council president, revealed yesterday an upcoming book release to document and preserve the heritage of the successful Project 0812 Olympic initiative, which paved the way for Team Singapore to win three medals at Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
All the medals were contributed by table tennis.
STTA honour roll
- Sportsman of the Year: Gao Ning
- Sportswoman of the Year: Feng Tianwei
- Outstanding Coach of the Year: Jing Junhong
- Supportive Coach of the Year: Liu Jiayi
- Team of the Year: Men's team
- Young Player of the Year: Lin Ye
- Young Achiever of the Year: Clarence Chew
- Special Award of the Year: Lin Ye/Zhou Yihan, Feng Tianwei, Yu Mengyu, Yang Zi
- Commendation Award: Wang Xiang, Hao Anlin